Real health #30 Is obsessing over your health ruining your life?

We are nearly at the end of this Real Health January series and for this penultimate post I want to bring it back to where we started in post #1 What does it mean to be healthy?. Today’s topic might be another controversial one and also one that is close to my heart! I want to talk about how an obsession with health and wellness can ruin your life.

When it comes to health there are definitely two clear extremes. There of course are many people who could benefit from making lifestyle changes to improve their health and reduce their risk of disease. But there are also those on the opposite end of the spectrum who are so focused on being healthy that it actually starts to negatively impact their life. I am all about promoting balance and I really do think the meaning of true health is learning how to make healthy choices and look after your body without obsessing over it and letting it take over.

Be healthy to LIVE rather than live to be HEALTHY

When I was younger, I definitely fell into the trap of letting health take over my life. I was obsessed with clean eating and afraid to eat foods that were “bad for me” or would make me gain weight. I went to the gym religiously, sometimes exercising more than once a day and I was constantly thinking about how I could get in those extra active minutes. I would walk to the gym, do a zumba class followed by pilates and then walk home. All of this fuelled by soups, salads and low-fat ready meals. People thought I was crazy but in a good way and would praise me for my commitment and discipline. As I’ve shared before, all of this led to a lot of anxiety and totally messed up hormones.

Fast forward to my early twenties and the arrival of the wellness scene. At the time I was looking for a way to heal my body, get my period back and fix my relationship with food. I found the online vegan community where everyone seemed happy and healthy following a “whole foods plant-based” diet and I jumped right in. I was eating insane amounts of fruits and vegetables and all sorts of super food powers claiming to detoxify and cleanse my body. Thank god I let go of the crazy amounts of cardio I was doing but instead discovered weight lifting and still had this fixation on body control and fitness in the back of my mind. At the time I thought I was doing the right thing and it was almost like there was a moral value attached to this healthy lifestyle.

It alienated me from my friends and kept me focusing on health above all. I was probably pretty boring as that’s all I talked about for a while! And yes, I am aware this is a health blog and I am writing about wellness here every day. I really enjoy healthy living and sharing my knowledge and experience but the difference is it is no longer my life. My work, relationships and hobbies get much more of my attention these days. Yes I eat lots of fresh, nutritious food but I also eat cake and chocolate on the regular. I no longer buy superfoods just for the health benefits and focus on real, local foods instead. I like moving my body but I won’t push myself through HIIT routines that I hate and if I am tired or on my period I will take a break from exercise altogether without feeling guilty about it. And I feel so much healthier for it!

The one thing I am really happy about my venture into wellness obsession is that I also started practicing yoga and meditation at this time, habits that have stuck with me to this day and really changed my life. I think the question you have to ask yourself honestly when it comes to health choices is: “Will this thing make my life better or worse?”. If your diet consists mostly of pasta and takeaways, eating more fruit and vegetables will probably give you more energy and reduce your risk of disease. But if you are already eating salads and smoothies all day long, restricting yourself from having pizza with your friends once a week probably won’t do much for your health and might leave you feeling isolated and lonely. Are the benefits of a healthy diet worth it if all of your thoughts are consumed by what and when you will eat and you lose connection with your friends and family?

Same for exercise, there is no point following a strict workout regime if you hate it the whole time and feel exhausted and stressed. Chronic stress is terrible for your body and actually increases your risk of many diseases. If you find yourself saying no to social events just to go to the gym, all of your days revolve around your exercise schedule or if you find it hard to rest even when you are injured or tired, maybe it’s time to look at your relationship to exercise. No criticism here, I am saying this from experience. Like with everything it’s all about balance. We are sold this image of fitness as the ultimate ideal but is it really necessary to train like you’re going into the military or look like a fitness model in order to be healthy? I’d argue not.

You might be reading this and thinking it is unrealistic or extreme but orthorexia (obsession with healthy eating) and exercise addiction are real and genuinely impact the lives of many people. I want my contribution to the wellness industry to be a voice of reason and realism. I want to inspire you to make positive changes that help you to feel your best without all of the rules and rigidity. I want you to feel motivated and empowered by my posts and not like you have to go ahead and do all of these things otherwise you won’t be healthy. The most important thing is to stay aware of your body keep asking yourself how you feel. I recently posted a video on healing fatigue through yoga and self-awareness which is all about this if you’re interested. And stay tuned for the last post of the Real Health January series tomorrow!

Over to you…

I hope you found this article interesting and enjoyed the series so far. Let me know in the comments below your thoughts and experiences with health and wellness obsession.

  • If you want to follow along with this Real Health blog series, like this post and follow my blog for daily updates. And please share with anyone you think might be interested
  • If you are looking for guidance, support and accountability on you health journey, please contact me for information on the nutrition and holistic health coaching packages I offer. I would love to work together with you to get you feeling your best again.

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Real health #25 How meditation can help you to change your mindset and your habits

We are long past the days where meditation is seen as something completely hippy or “out there”. Meditation and mindfulness are becoming every day terms understood and practiced by students, parents and business executives alike. We are starting to understand the impact of rushing through our lives in a half-conscious, distracted state is no good for our health and happiness and embracing meditation and mindfulness as tools to help us to become more present and aware. Yesterday I wrote about how to change your habits you first need to change your mind and today I want to explain how meditation can help you to create this mindset change.

Most of us spend our days operating from our conditioned mind. Our sub-conscious has a huge set of stored thoughts, beliefs, emotional responses and programmed actions that we play on repeat and these conditioned patterns define the way that we show up in the world and our identity. If we want to change our habits we have to consciously think different thoughts which enable us to feel differently create new pathways in the brain. But this can be hard to do when we are constantly bombarded with the familiar thoughts and feelings that tell us who we are. If we try to think differently, we will be greeted with a barrage of opposing thoughts and intense feelings because we have moved outside of our familiar comfort zone. This can make changing your thoughts very difficult!

How can meditation help you to get past this and change your mindset? Firstly, meditation helps you to become aware of your current habitual thought patterns. Yes all of those annoying intrusive thoughts when you are trying to meditate can actually be a good thing. Pay attention to them and you will see where your mind is probably wandering throughout the rest of your day too, without you even realising. Maybe you are distracted by things you should be doing instead or maybe you find yourself criticising yourself for not being able to empty your mind and meditate “properly”. Maybe your mind tells you that you can’t do it, you are uncomfortable or that you always fail. Whatever it is, take note! This is your first glance at your natural state of being from the point of view of an observer.

You can also use meditation as a way to practice disrupting these unhelpful thoughts and letting them go. When you aren’t paying attention, one thought can lead to another and before you know it you can spiral down the rabbit hole of negative thinking. Our thoughts affect the way we feel and those emotions then affect the way we think. We can easily become stuck in unhelpful loops of thoughts and emotions without noticing. Maybe you have a memory of being left out at school and the thought brings up emotions of sadness and loneliness. Those feelings then trigger other memories where you have felt alone and the feelings of isolation grow and become overwhelming. Over time of thinking these thoughts and feeling these feeling you can start to identify with the state of being as a lonely, unloveable person and this becomes your identity. Meditation offers you the opportunity to become aware of these patterns and break the chain.

When we have negative thoughts about ourselves, there is usually another voice present in our mind which knows better. For example, I’m sure many of you have experienced body image issues at some point in your life. That voice that tells you you are not beautiful enough or thin enough is probably loud at times but there is always that quiet voice underneath which says you are good enough as you are. Meditation slows down your thoughts and allows this alternative voice to have it’s say and become louder. In other words you are able to observe a thought and how it makes you feel then choose to think a different one. Of course you can do this through out your day but the focused attention state of meditation makes it much easier to observe your thoughts and engage your conscious mind.

How to start a meditation practice

There are many different meditation techniques but as usual I suggest to keep it simple if you are starting out. All you need is a quiet place, a comfortable place to sit and a timer. You can practice in your living room, on your bed, in your garden or out in nature. There are no rules, just find a place where you feel safe to relax.

  1. Set your timer for anywhere from 5 to 20 minutes (tip set it on vibrate or on quiet so you aren’t jolted out of your practice)
  2. Sit comfortably in a cross-legged position or sit on a chair with your feet planted on the ground
  3. Close your eyes and start to become aware of your body sensations, noticing areas of comfort or pain, tension or tightness, hot or cold and the contact points between your body and the surface beneath you
  4. Bring your attention to your breath. Notice the sensations associated with the inhale and exhale, the rhythm and depth of your breath, whether you feel it deep in your belly or high in your chest
  5. Hold your attention on your breath. You can count your breaths if it helps you to concentrate or continue to focus on the sensations
  6. As thoughts arise, notice the emotions they trigger. Note whether they are helpful, unhelpful or neutral and then let them go. If you find yourself distracted, at the point you realise, let the thoughts go without judgement
  7. Continue like this until your time ends and then slowly open your eyes and start to bring movement back into your body
  8. Try to keep this relaxed, focused awareness with you as you go on with your day

With practice, meditation can also help you to access your sub-conscious mind and change your beliefs. I especially like combining meditation with affirmations by starting with a full body and mind relaxation and then listening to repeated phrases that reflect the new way I want to think. I have recommended them before but my absolute favourite guided meditations for changing your mindset are from The Mindful Movement. They have so many free videos on Youtube on all sorts of topics from healing your physical and emotional body, improving self-confidence to releasing fear and worry and letting go of the past. The video below is a great one if you are embarking on a new healthy lifestyle and trying to change your habits. Listen to the meditation before bed a few times a week and watch your confidence and belief in your ability to succeed soar!

Over to you…

I hope you enjoyed this article and the series so far. Let me know in the comments below your thoughts experiences with meditation, especially if it has improved your life and helped you to build healthier habits.

  • If you want to follow along with this Real Health January blog series, like this post and follow my blog for daily updates. And please share with anyone you think might be interested!
  • If you are looking for guidance, support and accountability on you health journey, please contact me for information on the health coaching packages I offer. I would love to work together with you to get you feeling your best again!

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My experience with insomnia and fatigue

Fatigue is such an awkward topic to discuss. It’s one of those conditions that people who haven’t experienced just don’t understand. It isn’t visible so unless you go around complaining about it all of the time, people assume you are fine. Or if you do try to explain to others they think it is the same as just being tired after a bad nights’ sleep. You go to the doctor and if blood tests come back normal, they tell you you’re healthy and act like you are making it up. Maybe fatigue is “all in your head” in a way as often it does have a psychological root but that doesn’t mean the physical symptoms aren’t real and often debilitating.

My experience with fatigue started 5 years ago. In my final year of university, after 4 years of too much stress, caffeine, partying and terrible eating habits, I developed gastritis. This is a painful inflammation of the stomach that would plague me all day but be even worse in the middle of the night when my stomach was fully empty. The pain would be so bad I’d wake up in the middle of the night and not be able to get back to sleep because it was like someone was stabbing me in the belly. The sensation was like the peak of the hunger pangs you get when you are really starving, except it wouldn’t come in waves it would just stay at that intensity. Horrible.

So I started getting only 4-5 hours sleep a night and from 3am I’d be awake trying anything to ease the pain and relax so I could get back to sleep: herbal teas, dry snacks, gentle yoga, guided meditations. This continued for months and at first it was manageable but after a while I started feeling like a total zombie during the day. I went to the doctor and he put me on PPI medication for my gastritis which didn’t help and actually made my fatigue worse because it affects absorption of certain nutrients so I came off it after a few months. I remember being at work during that first year after graduating and nearly falling asleep during meeting on so many occasions. Looking back I probably should have been off sick but it was my first job I was so determined to keep going and find a solution.

Over the next few years I did find things that helped and eventually managed to cure my gastritis fully. I still have a sensitive stomach so I can have a flare up if I drink too much coffee, alcohol or fried food but on the whole I don’t have symptoms. However, my sleep patterns still didn’t improve much even after the gastritis faded. I would still wake up during the early hours and not be able to get back to sleep or if I did sleep through the night I would still feel exhausted the next day. I look back at photos of myself from that time and it’s pretty emotional to remember how I felt. And I struggled to understand how people couldn’t see that I was suffering when it was written all over my face!

It’s crazy for me to think now how I kept going for years like that but I did. I barely had the energy to maintain my social life but I still managed to work, enjoy my relationship and my family. I remember going on trips or days out and enjoying them but feeling like I wasn’t fully present, like I just couldn’t fully immerse myself in the moment. I felt like I was dragging myself through every day doing things because my mind wanted to make the most out of life, even though my body just wanted to lie in bed all day. I couldn’t engage in conversations and being with people often felt draining.

Last September we moved to a new city and I think this is where I hit rock bottom with insomnia and fatigue. I started a new job and I was completing my research project for my nutrition degree alongside. I was so depleted and still couldn’t sleep. It was like my body was on alert mode all of the time. There were a couple of nights where I didn’t get any sleep at all and by the next day I would be feeling so out of it and delirious. You’d think that by the next night I would be so exhausted that my body would make up for it but I’d still have that “wired but tired” feeling. I would pass out at 9pm only to wake up again at 2am. I had so many mini break downs and emotional outbursts. The weekend would come and I would be crying all of Saturday morning. I felt like a 2 year old not able to control my emotions at all.

Fast forward to 2020, this is where the real healing began. I actually think being in lockdown helped a lot as working from home full time meant I could take breaks and naps during the day when I needed to. I also managed to cut out coffee completely for long periods which I had never been able to do before. I was definitely leaning on it as a crutch, especially when I needed to show up for something and wanted to do my best. But being stuck at home with no schedule no social obligations was a blessing in disguise for the first few months. Finally I realised that it was ok to be tired and that instead of fighting my body I would just have to listen to what it was telling me.

I ate really well, building up some nutrient stores that had been depleted through lack of sleep and stress. I went for walks in nature every day and really got back into my yoga practice. I focused again on menstrual cycle awareness and living in tune with my cycle as best as I could. I spent alot of time reading, reflecting and journalling, trying to weed out some of the old mental and emotional patterns which were causing me stress and keeping me stuck. And finally I saw the light at the end of the tunnel. I started to get 6-8 hours sleep most nights (even though I was still waking up at 5am it was a big improvement!). I had days were I felt energised and had waves of random happiness that I hadn’t experienced for a long time. I felt my silliness and playful start to come back which I didn’t even know was missing.

Even though I have come so far I still feel like I am on a healing path with this. I don’t feel like my energy levels are as high as they could be and I am still sensitive to stress. But I have learned through all of this how to manage it and to look after myself when I have low days. And I trust that things are only going to continue to improve. Recently I have been really busy at work and preparing to move house and I have felt the fatigue coming on again in the last few days. Actually that is what motivated me to write this, to remind myself how far I have come and that overall things are getting better! I have the energy to pursue my passion for writing again and to help others through my nutrition and health coaching which I’d only dreamed of doing a year ago.

Over to you…

I hope that by sharing my story I can give hope to anyone who is suffering with fatigue for any reason that things can get better! I am so grateful for all of the people who supported me in my life during this time (especially my parents, my nan and my boyfriend) and I want to do what I can to help others in a similar situation. Please leave a comment if you feel like sharing your experience or can relate to any of my story. I think one of the hardest things about insomnia and fatigue is the deep loneliness that you experience when you feel like everyone around you is free whilst you remain trapped in this cage. But that is the beauty of online spaces, you might not know people in “real life” going through similar things but you can find others to relate to and connect with from all over the world which is amazing 🙂

  • Like this post and follow my blog for more posts on dealing with fatigue and how to recover and regain your health and life
  • If you are looking for guidance, support and accountability on you health journey, please contact me for information on the nutrition and holistic health coaching packages I offer. I would love to work together with you to get you feeling your best again.

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Hatha yoga for hip and hamstring flexibility

Here is a short hatha yoga asana practice to stretch and open the hips and hamstrings. Great for when quarantine has you sat on your butt all day 🙂

Move slowly and mindfully focusing on your breath and alignment in the postures. Hold each pose for around 5-10 breaths. Use props to support you if you need and feel free to ask in the comments if you want specific advice.


Start in downward facing dog. Aim for a straight line between your head and tail bone – bend your knees if you need to. A straight spine is more important than straight legs.


Walk your feet towards your hands into forward fold. Relax your spine and release tension from your neck and shoulders. Hands can be on the floor, ankles or shins. Again bend your knees as much as you need to to relax into the pose.


Step your left leg back into low lunge. Keep your core muscles engaged and focus on rotating your pelvis backward so that you feel the stretch in your thigh and front of your hip.


Raise your arms above your head and side bend to the right to increase the stretch on your hip flexors and side body.


For a deeper quad and hip flexor stretch, lift the left foot and catch hold with your left hand (or use a yoga strap if you can’t reach). Gently pull your foot inwards still keeping your core tight and pelvis tilting backwards.


Move into a hamstring stretch by sitting back onto your left heel. Focus on engaging the right thigh muscle and keeping your spine straight to protect your knee and back.


If you want a deeper hamstring stretch you can work on your splits practice – use blocks to support your weight and try to keep your torso as upright as possible.


Stretch back into downward facing dog and move your feet and hips to loosen up.


Lift your right leg into three-legged dog. Focus on keeping your weight even in both hands and shoulders aren’t shrugging up by your ears.


Swing your right leg through into half pigeon pose. Keep your foot flexed to protect your knee and place a block or cushion under your hip for support. You should feel a deep stretch in your outer thigh and hip but no sharp pains!


To deepen the stretch, relax your torso forward and rest your forehead onto your hands. Breathe deeply here, this is an intense stretch but try to relax any tension or resistance you feel in your hip and find ease in the pose.

Now repeat all of the above on the other side 


Come to a seated position and place the soles of your feet together into cobblers pose. You can press down gently on your knees using your elbows to open up your hips further.


Bend forward from the hips and relax your torso over your thighs. Rather than head towards your feet aim to move your chest towards your feet to help keep your spine straight. Relax into the pose and breathe deeply


Move into a wide leg seated position. Reach your right hand to your right foot and raise your left hand over your head to feel an intense side stretch. Repeat on the other side.


Move into a seated wide leg forward fold. If you have a big cushion or bolster you can place it in front of you to rest your torso and relax deeper into the pose.

Finally (and most importantly!) move into savasana, corpse pose. I didn’t take a photo but it is pretty self explanatory..


Stay here as long you like, the longer the better. As a minimum take 20 deep breaths in and out and allow your muscles to let go and release any remaining tension. If you feel tempted to get up, imagine roots growing down into the earth from your ankles and hands.. you couldn’t move even if you wanted to so you might as well let yourself relax and be supported by the ground.

I hope you enjoy the practice! Namaste.

Why am I so interested in hormones? Part 3 – recovery, relapse, repeat

Continuing from my last post.. I started working with an online coach to heal my PCOS. Through working with her I started to uncover all sorts of ideas around my relationship to food and exercise and how it had impacted my body. Even though I was still very restrictive in my food choices I was eating a lot more and really cut down on my exercise routine. Over time, I started to doubt my diagnosis. I didn’t have any of the symptoms of high “male hormones” and just didn’t seem to fit the profile for PCOS. Eventually, I had the confidence to go and see another doctor and ask for further tests. I had some blood tests which confirmed my testosterone levels were normal and a second ultrasound scan which showed my ovaries were totally normal too. So I was “undiagnosed” from PCOS!

But I still didn’t have a period..

I continued researching trying to figure out what was going on and eventually I came across something called Hypothalamic Amenorrhea (HA). This is basically the loss of menstrual cycle due to physical or emotional stress. Finally something that seemed to make sense! It pointed at 4 basic causes:

  1. Under-eating
  2. Over- exercising
  3. Maintaining a low body weight
  4. Stress/anxiety

Over the next few months I found various people speaking about this online who I can’t thank enough for opening up this world to me. Especially Nicola Rinaldi and This Girl Audra whose books No Period Now What and Get Your Period Handbook really helped me to figure out a path out of this mess i’d got myself into. And this is where my relationship with my hormones started to shift from one of fear, panic and confusion to a softer, kinder understanding. I finally accepted that I needed a complete lifestyle overhaul if I wanted to heal and that my idea of healthy was totally warped and influenced by the diet and fitness industry.

I took an “all in” approach to healing my hormones where for a few months I did zero exercise, ate as much as I wanted (which was a lot!) and tried to reduce stress as much as possible. And in March 2016, at age 23, I finally got my period back. It wasn’t an easy journey, I had to gain weight which was something that terrified me and I had to totally rewire my brain and tackle disordered eating thoughts that had become so automatic that I didn’t even notice them anymore and just thought they were part of me. I had many fear foods and food rules to overcome and constantly doubted that what I was doing.

But I continued and since then I have been so aware of my cycle and grateful each month that I get my period. I was so amazed by the female body that I continued to read and learn about how to maintain balance and work with my hormonal cycle. I read Woman Code by Alicia Vritti and Wild Power by Alexandra Pope and Sjanie Wurlizter and these became my handbooks for life. I started to experiment with cycle tracking and cycle syncing and I have been doing this now for a couple of years. I am still learning but honestly I am completely fascinated and in awe by the magic of our hormones. I realised just how powerful they are in affecting the way we feel and show up in the world and the importance of working with our cyclic rhythm rather than against it.

It hasn’t all been plain sailing, I have relapsed several times in the last 3 years. Stressful periods at work and in life have triggered my “eating disorder brain” and resulted in me restricting food groups, creating food rules, tracking my calories and falling back into obsessive exercise in an attempt to change my body. These things help me feel in control and give me something to focus on when life gets too much to handle. But now I have my period as my “fifth vital sign” and any time it goes awry I know I need to re-evaluate and get myself back on track. I think it is something that I will always have to be mindful of, like many others who have struggled with disordered eating. However, I will never go back to the destructive habits that used to be my life.

During this time cycle tracking and syncing has been a key spiritual practice for me, helping me to learn more about my self and get closer to nature. I am still working on putting things I am learning into practice, especially as cycle syncing is not easy in the world we live in. But I keep going and I am excited to share my experiences on this blog. I hope this answers the question of why I am so interested in hormones, after the last 10 years I feel like its impossible for me not to be!

How to start tracking your menstrual cycle

If there is one thing I would recommend for women to improve health, it is to start tracking your cycle. It sounds so simple but actually it will give you insights that allow you to start being your own health coach!

There are different levels to cycle tracking, depending on your goals:

Newbie tracker – if you just want to get a basic awareness of your hormonal pattern, track your cycle length each month by recording the first day of bleeding (excluding any spotting) as Day 1. Also record any noticeable symptoms or moods each day of the cycle. Becoming aware of these monthly fluctuations will mean you are less likely taken by surprise and have a better understanding of what is going on in your body.

Cycle syncer – if you want to start exploring cycle syncing, you can also start to identify which of the 4 phases you are in each day (see my post here for more information on this). Record your energy levels, sex drive, sleep quality and hunger levels and see if you spot any patterns after tracking for a few cycles. Once you have an idea of your pattern you can start to think about making lifestyle changes which will help you flow through each phase without feeling like you’re swimming upstream and fighting against your natural rhythms.

Menstrual guru – if you are trying to get pregnant or want to be more accurate with identifying which cycle phase you are in (specifically finding out when/if you ovulate), you can also record your Basal Body Temperature (BBT) each morning (see here for how to do this). You can also record any cervical discharge you notice as the amount and consistency will change depending on the level of hormones as shown on the chart below. If you have some period problems you want to troubleshoot, checking your flow during your period is also a good idea as the amount, colour and consistency can tell you a lot about your hormonal health!

CM cycle

This is just one “typical” example, there are variations which can be part of a normal cycle for you. It can be confusing at first but once you get used to it, this can be a really useful tool for troubleshooting your cycle and finding out if your lifestyle is helping you to achieve healthy. balanced hormones.

My favourite way to track my cycle is using the Maya app. But for those who prefer a paper version I have created a spreadsheet with templates for the 3 options above – feel free to use them online or print them out and edit to what suits you. Enjoy!

The pre-menstrual power of losing it

Right now I am in my pre-menstrual phase and I have been struggling a lot with difficult emotions. I am feeling unsettled, sad, angry, lost and confused. Luckily because I track my cycle I know that this is the time of the month when things like this are most likely come up. As women we are so good at hiding how we really feel and getting on with things, often trying to keep others happy at the expense of our own wellbeing. This ability to override our darkest emotions is much stronger in the first half of our cycle when estrogen is high. And it’s not like its a conscious decision, our bodies do this automatically so we can actually experience it as feeling fine one week and then crazy the next.

losing it

So what should we do when these feelings come up shake our sense of self? It can be tempting to squash the feelings down through distraction or coping mechanisms such as emotional eating or to dismiss them as PMS or just “being hormonal”. But if we take the time to listen we can really learn something about how we feel about our lives and use it to make positive changes. Something I have been trying to do is to sit in the stew of emotions, just letting myself feel whatever comes up without judging or trying to change things. If I am feeling depressed one day letting that be and not using any of the “make yourself happy” techniques like fake positive affirmations which never really worked for me anyway. Every emotion is valid and is just a signal from your body trying to tell you something.

Another GREAT thing to do is just allow yourself to lose it. Some women, myself included, tend to be pretty controlled with their emotions on a daily basis. At work, many of us are in male-dominated environment and we don’t want to come across as weak or over-emotional. At home, we don’t want to offend or upset our partners or families with our anger or sadness. But actually letting go of control and just letting it all out is exactly what we need. Its better to do it consciously rather than being hit by an emotional outburst out of the blue. Scream, shout, cry, punch a pillow, dance like crazy.. anything to get that energy moving up and out of your body. Maybe you feel embarrassed and don’t want to look stupid? Some of my favourites are screaming as loud as I can whilst driving on the motorway, letting myself lie down and cry even if I don’t know exactly why I am crying and putting on music and just shaking my body.

If you aren’t comfortable with any of these try writing it out in a journal or making a video-diary but honestly I think the physical aspect is super important. When put our emotions to one side, they don’t go away but stay in our bodies as tension and stress. Eventually we have to release them otherwise we will manifest sickness and disease. Many conditions that are common today are influenced by chronic stress as a factor including diabetes, fatigue and auto-immune conditions (which affect women much more than men!). Our cycle provides us with the pre-menstrual phase as the perfect time to have this energy release so that we can go into the deep resting and healing menstrual phase with a clean slate.

So try it out if you’re interested. If you are tracking your cycle then from day 21-28 (or around a week before your period is due to start if your cycle is less/more than 28 days) create some free time in your schedule to just do nothing and see what comes up emotionally. If this is the first time you are doing this don’t be surprised to feel some pretty intense emotions. Sometimes tension can be stored deep in the body for a long time and it can be overwhelming to have a wave of old emotions hit you. But trust that if you practice this monthly ritual of processing and releasing what has come up that cycle then it will become much easier over time and will become something to look forward to as you shed what is no longer serving you and create space for new energy to come in.

5 day reset – day 5 and what I learned

Yesterday was the last day of my mini cleanse. I actually got sick and woke up in the morning with a headache, chesty cough and fatigue like nothing I experienced before and fatigue is an accepted part of my life these days! I went against my own plan and did a circuit-style workout at home on day 3 of the reset. I was really in the mood to exercise, mainly to relieve stress but afterwards I felt exhausted and today my whole body aches as if my muscles haven’t been able to recover properly.

I started off day 1 well with a green juice. But despite feeling unwell, I had to drive an hour to inspect an industrial site (I work for the Environment Agency) and I gave into temptation and had a coffee on the way. Straight away I could feel it in my nervous system, after a few periods of going caffeine free I am hyper-aware now of what it does to my body but it did help to get through the day. From Monday I will go caffeine free again but for now its the weekend and I am going to enjoy my coffee. At least my early start to the day meant I got to see a beautiful pink sunrise!

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By the time I got home in the evening I had totally crashed and was actually feeling pretty down. I am on day 25 of my cycle, at the end of the luteal phase which is a natural low point for me anyway but the last few months of stress have made these lows even lower. I start to question everything in my life and feel this deep sense of despair. Journalling helps but sometimes I don’t like what comes up, especially when following my intuition means taking risks or making dramatic life changes. Awareness is the first step though and allowing things to be processed is better than ignoring them which I do for most of the month. There’s just something about the luteal phase that pushes me to dive deeper and get reflective.

Anyway, food wise yesterday wasn’t so great as I was unprepared and ended up eating breakfast and lunch on the road. I had fruit and nuts in the morning but I bought them from the petrol station and they definitely weren’t the best quality. For lunch I ate in the canteen at the site and went for the vegetarian chilli with rice. It was ok but a bit too oily and spicy for my liking and I felt heavy and sluggish afterwards. Then later on I had a few squares of dark chocolate to perk me up on the drive home. I think this was technically a 4 day reset as day as my nutrition goals went out of the window on day 5.

I tracked my nutrition using Chronometer for the 5 days and here is the overall summary:

5 day reset nutrients

5 day reset cals

For intuitive eating I think this is pretty good! Apparently I ate a bit more than I need to maintain my weight but I don’t think these calculators are accurate anyway. My calories were about 2000 each day which is about what I need as I woman and I hit most of my nutrient targets (eating nutritional yeast every day definitely helped with the B vitamins including B12). The only thing that I was seriously lacking in was vitamin D but I do take a daily supplement so I’m not too worried about that. The 2nd chart shows the macro-nutrient breakdown for each day – green is fat, red is carbs and blue is protein.

You can see the drop in carbs after the first day when I definitely went overboard with the fruit and an increase in fats/proteins from the extra nuts and seeds on the last couple of days. I have to admit I am a bit of a science-nerd so I love data!

What were my results?

My goals going into the 5 day reset were:

  1. Better digestion and elimination
  2. Improved sleep and higher energy
  3. Brighter skin/less acne/dark circles

Truthfully I don’t think I have achieved any of these – oops! I am still constipated, my sleep has gotten worse over the last few days and my acne is no better either. I feel pretty exhausted and generally terrible. Not at all in the mood to celebrate this weekend when feeling my best for my Christmas party and graduation was the main reason I set out on this cleanse. I guess the only positive I can say is that I’ve learned a few things along the way and have some ideas on how to “do better next time”. Look out for round 2 of the 5 day cleanse!

What have I learned?

A major learning from this reset that I mentioned in other posts is the importance of blood sugar balancing. This is something I will take forward into the rest of this month. No high carb, high fruit, vegan diet for me right now as it just doesn’t work. I think for anyone struggling with hormonal issues, particularly those related to the adrenals, needs to focus on balancing blood sugar above everything. What does this mean? More healthy fats and vegetables, less fruit and grains and especially so in the morning.

Another thing I have realised is that good digestion and elimination is not as simple as increasing fibre in your diet. In reality, there are so many other factors at play including sleep quality (as this is when our body is detoxifying and preparing for elimination the next day) and stress levels. Sometimes a higher fibre diet can actually make the situation worse if our system becomes overloaded and can’t process what we put in.

On my favourite topic of menstruality and hormones, I have been reminded of the importance of cycle synching! Pushing my body with work and exercise towards the end of my monthly cycle leaves me feeling imbalanced and exhausted. I have a new wave of motivation to try to line up my schedule with my cycle and I am already thinking ahead over the next month how I can do this. I did say going into this cleanse that I thought the follicular phase is the best time for women to start a cleanse as this is when our energy levels are highest and we also have that fresh feeling of the start of a new cycle. My experience has shown that I was probably right and I will try this out next time.

Finally, I have realised that my relationship to food and my body is so much better than it used to be. I am much more in tune with how my body is feeling and what it needs. I’m not afraid to listen to my intuition when it comes to what and how much to eat. Coming from someone who spent many years in my teens and early 20s as a chronic dieter and binge eater this is amazing and these few days have proved to me how far I have come. For a long time I wasn’t able to do any sort of cleanse as just the thought of restriction was triggering for me and I always associated clean eating with dieting and weight loss. However, now I am able to do something like this for health reasons without weight loss on the agenda which is great.

What next?

I hope you enjoyed following along with this 5 day reset even if it didn’t exactly work out as planned! Now I am going to enjoy my weekend as best as I can even though I am feeling crappy right now.  After that I am in the mood to share more about cycle synching and how this can benefit us women so look out for that over the next month including:

  • What are the 4 phases of the menstrual cycle
  • How to adjust your lifestyle, nutrition and exercise to each phase
  • What our “superpowers” are in each stage and things to look out for
  • My experience with cycle tracking using journals, apps etc.
  • Yoga practices for the different cycle phases

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5 day reset – day 3 & 4

Almost at the end of the 5 day reset! I didn’t post yesterday as I didn’t have much to say and I basically ate the same as the day before so nothing exciting there either. I am feeling ok but my sleep hasn’t improved which is really annoying. Despite that though my energy levels have been pretty good once I got over the first couple of hours. I am doing a much better job of balancing my blood sugars now, it has really helped to have a higher fat breakfast and not overdo it with fruit first thing in the morning. But I am still waking up around 2-4am then several times after that before my alarm goes off.

I am guessing my sleep issues are mostly stress related as I am super busy at work and I have gone through a huge life change recently. It’s strange though as I don’t feel anxious during the day but at night it’s as if my mind won’t switch off. It’s not really worry or panic its more that my brain decides that now is a good time to start planning for the next day.. or week or month! Maybe this is anxiety, I guess I don’t really know but it’s different from how I have experienced it in the past. I have learned a lot about adrenal fatigue over the last year and I do think that cortisol levels being out of whack can really affect levels of alertness during the night. I am employing allll of my sleep improving tips and nothing is helping at all.

The other thing I was hoping to improve during this cleanse was my skin and I have to say it has gotten worse! I had some hormonal acne that I wanted to clear up before this weekend and I thought eating lots of fruit would flush out my system and help to clear my skin. However.. the first day or 2 I got a few new spots, painful cystic ones that are deep under the skin. I haven’t had any more since then but my jaw and chin is still inflamed and red which is definitely not the look I was going for. I never promised that this would be the perfect cleanse with amazing results it is just my own experiment and honest results! On a positive note, my hair looks great although I doubt 4 days of a cleanse could really have made a difference there 🙂

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I have been doing yoga and meditation every day and I’m really happy with how this is affecting my mind and body. I’m sure that this is keeping me going and smiling despite the lack of sleep. I feel light and flexible (well for me at least) and focused during my practice which is really helping to pay attention to my body and find my edge during poses to slowly open up. I have noticed several areas of tightness and clenching in muscles in places that I tend to hold stress, especially my left hip and right shoulder. I have really been trying to breathe into these areas and let go of some tension, physically and emotionally as I know I tend to hang on tight and find it hard to surrender.

So tomorrow is the final day. I am sticking to my higher fat diet still with lots of fruits and veggies but also including coconut milk and olive oil, nuts and seeds to keep my blood sugar stable. I have a lot of driving to do for work and actually I don’t think I chose the best week for this reset at all but I didn’t expect it to be so chaotic. I am ready for the weekend already! For now I am enjoying playing my guitar as it’s freezing outside and I don’t feel like going anywhere. I’m coming towards the end of my cycle and definitely feeling that inwards turning introverted feeling rising. 

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5 day reset – day 2

Sooo I definitely learned some lessons from yesterday! I think my blood sugar went on a rollercoaster after that dip in the afternoon as I woke up in the next really hot and wide awake. I tried deep breathing and after a while got up and read for a bit to try and relax my brain. I started to get hungry and I knew I wouldn’t be able to sleep with my belly rumbling so I got up and had some toast with peanut butter. I don’t like eating during the night as I feel like it disrupts my digestion but I know when I haven’t eaten enough so I had to feed myself and I felt better afterwards.

I did manage to get back to sleep but felt pretty awful this morning and had to drag myself to work. I decided to go for a less carby breakfast in the hope of keeping my blood sugar stable so I made my choca-maca smoothie but as a hot drink without the bananas and with coconut milk -so yummy! I had 2 apples and some mixed nuts too and that filled me up till lunch time. Lunch was nothing new – same as yesterday dinner sweet potato, spinach, beans and tahini dressing. In my opinion it helps to eat similar meals during a reset as it stops you thinking too much about what to eat and your digestive system knows what to expect.



Choca-maca yumminess

1/4 cup coconut milk (from a can)

3/4 cup boiling water

2 tbsp cacao powder

1/2 tbsp maca root powder

Pinch sea salt



I definitely think I still have some sensitivity to blood sugar imbalance as I felt much more balanced after eating higher fats. Some people seem to do really well on super high carb diets but I’m not one of them (even though I know this I still try it, hopefully I will learn soon!).  I know it’s a never ending debate in the world of nutrition and I really think you have to listen to your body on this one. I seem to get hungry much faster and also my huger hits me like a ton of bricks whereas after higher fats it is much smoother and gradual hunger like, hey, I’m getting hungry now rather than GIVE ME ALL THE FOOD NOW. I felt pretty good all afternoon and got lots of work done.

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I munched on a grapefruit on the way home and took some time to play guitar and do a home yoga practice. I am filming these and thinking about sharing some sequences but I am struggling with a lot of self-doubt around it at the moment as I see all these super-flexi goddesses on instagram and I feel like I am not good enough even though I am a trained yoga teacher. I know its a stupid belief but its one that is difficult to get over it – I am working on it! Let me know if you would be interested in seeing some yoga flows or tips for beginners 🙂 now I am about to enjoy dinner of toast with stir-fry kale and mushrooms with this amazing beetroot sourdough bread I found followed by a few more of those raw vegan truffles.

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So I think that’s all I really want to say about day 2. Then I’m going to sit myself down and do some journalling and meditation as I didn’t drag myself out of bed in time to do it this morning and one of my intentions coming into this reset was do take the time for this daily. I have another busy work day tomorrow and I am out visiting a site so that will be interesting and I will have to be prepared with lots of healthy food so that I’m not tempted by the coffee and biscuits. I hope will get a better nights’ sleep and I will check in tomorrow for day 3 and some updates on the acne situation!


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